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Ford AOD Transmissions: Rebuilding and Modifying the AOD, AODE and 4R70W
Ford AOD Transmissions: Rebuilding and Modifying the AOD, AODE and 4R70W
Ford AOD Transmissions: Rebuilding and Modifying the AOD, AODE and 4R70W
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Ford AOD Transmissions: Rebuilding and Modifying the AOD, AODE and 4R70W

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Ford AOD Transmissions: Rebuilding and Modifying the AOD, AODE and 4R70W walks you through the rebuild process step-by-step, from removing the transmission from the vehicle, to complete disassembly and cleaning, to careful reassembly, to proper re-installation and road testing. This is a first-ever book covering the Ford overdrive transmission models.
PublisherS-A Design
Release dateJun 22, 2015
Ford AOD Transmissions: Rebuilding and Modifying the AOD, AODE and 4R70W
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George Reid

George Reid has been a Ford enthusiast for more than 30 years. He enjoys restoring and building Fords. George has written a number of books for CarTech.

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    Ford AOD Transmissions - George Reid



    The prosperous postwar years provided time to forget about the Great Depression and fuel/material shortages. We became wasteful in the years following World War II because fuel was in plentiful supply. Gas wars were common, with fuel at giveaway prices. Overdrive, which had been quite common prior to World War II, faded away amid cheap and plentiful gasoline and low-buck engine overhauls.

    When the Arab Oil Embargo unfolded during the winter of 1973–1974, it was a rude awakening for spoiled American motorists. Large-displacement carbureted V-8s, heavy automobiles, and 2- and 3-speed straight-drive automatics came with a price at the pump. Fuel had long been cheap and plentiful, and it was a great ride while it lasted. However, what seemed short-lived would be our ultimate destiny: higher fuel prices. When the second oil crisis arrived in 1979, it brought with it increased fuel-economy standards imposed by the federal government. This time Detroit was ready with more-fuel-efficient automatics with direct mechanical lockup torque converters. And Ford was no exception.

    Ford’s Automatic Overdrive (AOD) entered service...

    Ford’s Automatic Overdrive (AOD) entered service in 1980 in full-size Fords, Mercurys, and Lincolns. What makes the AOD rugged is its geartrain, consisting of a Ravigneaux compound planetary gearset borrowed from the older, time-proven MX, FX, and FMX transmission family. Ford fitted these internals to a fresh cast-aluminum case with an overdrive unit.

    Ford’s fuel-efficiency approach began first with locking torque converter 3-speed automatic transmissions such as the Ford C5, which was an updated version of the venerable C4. Chrysler did the same thing with its 904 Torqueflite with a locking converter and its Lean Burn electronic engine/powertrain control system in the late 1970s. General Motors joined the crowd with its Turbo 200 and 200-4R.

    The AOD

    Ford’s automatic overdrive (AOD), first introduced in 1980, was the first domestic automatic overdrive transmission. General Motors and Chrysler swiftly followed. Chrysler added overdrive units to existing 3-speed automatics: the 904 and 727. General Motors further developed the 200 into a 200-4R with overdrive, and from there the all-new 700-R4 purpose-built automatic overdrive.

    Although the automatic overdrive might seem intimidating when compared with older C4, C6, and FMX 3-speed automatics, there’s really nothing to it aside from add-on hydromechanicals and direct overdrive lockup to eliminate wasteful slippage.

    Ford’s all-new AOD in full-size Fords, Mercurys, and Lincolns was a fresh design, yet it incorporated existing tried-and-proven Ravigneaux geartrain components borrowed from the BorgWarner FMX parts bin. The AOD is rugged and dependable thanks to the use of these time-proven components. It took quite a few years for Ford to get the AOD dialed in to be a solid performer, however, and this occurred with help from the aftermarket and off-road racers. The AOD had durability problems, most notably in the overdrive unit, which was a new design using unproven components. Ultimately, the 1993 Lincoln Mark VIII AOD Electronic Control (AODE)/4R70W’s wider overdrive drum and band solved the problem.

    This is the AOD passenger’s side with...

    This is the AOD passenger’s side with dipstick tube access, cooler line connections, and pressure ports. As you can see from the case design, the AOD has two servos and bands with an accumulator at the rear. From left to right in the case are the shift accumulator (A), low-reverse band servo (B), and overdrive band servo (C). All are accessed by pulling the pan and valve body. Because the AOD has an integral bellhousing, it is limited in application. Adaptor kits are available for the AOD for the FE-series big-block, the Y-Block, Bronco, older F-Series, and more.

    The driver’s side of the AOD...

    The driver’s side of the AOD shows the linear multi-pin connector backup light and neutral safety switch (A), the manual shift lever pointed downward at 7 o’clock (B), and the dogleg TV cable connection (C). The bellhousing threaded boss is for the TV cable linkage from the engine.

    More than 30 years into its service life, the AOD has proven to be an outstanding transmission for street and strip use thanks to effective engineering refinements. Vintage Ford enthusiasts love the AOD for its simplicity, durability, and an array of installation kits available in the aftermarket. California Pony Cars, in particular, offers everything you need to swap the AOD into a classic Mustang. There’s also Performance Automotive Transmission Center (PATC), which offers a variety of AOD and 5R55 swap kits and parts. Speedway Motors has swap kits for the Ford flathead V-8. Bronco Graveyard is yet another source. There are several sources that enable you to put the AOD behind an FE big-block.

    Here are the dipstick tube (A) and...

    Here are the dipstick tube (A) and cooler line (B) ports. The AOD dipstick tube clears most firewalls on classic vehicles such as the Mustang, Cougar, Fairlane, Torino, F-Series trucks, and Broncos. Aftermarket dipstick tubes fit those vehicles if stock tubes won’t.

    The AOD’s torque converter and...

    The AOD’s torque converter and bellhousing are designed for a 164-tooth flexplate, a small-block V-8, and large 6-cylinder blocks. AOD torque converter installation is tricky. You must confirm that it is fully seated on the two input shafts and the front pump drive. If it isn’t fully seated, you can expect extensive damage and transmission failure.

    This is the smaller solid overdrive/locking...

    This is the smaller solid overdrive/locking converter input shaft, which transfers power to the overdrive unit in lockup only. What makes torque converter installation so important is getting the torque converter fully seated on the stator, main input shaft, and this smaller lockup shaft. The converter must also fully seat into the front pump drive rotor. It is all performed by feel.

    This is the AOD’s stamped-steel pan...

    This is the AOD’s stamped-steel pan with the words Automatic Overdrive and Metric for quick identification. The AOD pan is shaped differently from the AODE/4R70W pan and does not interchange.

    The AOD has two input shafts: a...

    The AOD has two input shafts: a large hollow main input shaft and a smaller solid overdrive/torque converter lockup shaft, which is more for light-duty cruising once you get up to speed. The largest outer shaft is the torque converter’s stator support and it does not rotate.

    The AOD’s Ravigneaux compound planetary...

    The AOD’s Ravigneaux compound planetary gearset is the old-school, tried-and-proven durable geartrain borrowed from BorgWarner’s cast-iron FMX transmission. The Ravigneaux gearset is the workhorse that does the work of two planetaries.

    The AOD is a true hydromechanical 4-speed automatic transmission controlled by a manual shifter and throttle valve (TV) cable. The TV cable, tied to the vehicle’s throttle linkage, works like a kickdown linkage, yet it is more finite in its execution because it does the work of both a kickdown (downshift) linkage and vacuum modulator used on earlier Ford automatics. There is no vacuum modulator or kickdown linkage with the AOD as we see with the older C3, C4, C6, and FMX transmissions; only the lone TV cable.

    Here’s the AOD’s Ravigneaux gearset...

    Here’s the AOD’s Ravigneaux gearset as viewed from inside where planet gears wrap around the sun gear (not shown) and shell. This stamped assembly, known as the center support, supports the geartrain.

    The AOD’s forward clutch assembly is...

    The AOD’s forward clutch assembly is driven by the main input shaft. On the bench is the direct clutch, which delivers power to the output shaft.

    With a Ravigneaux compound planetary gearset...

    With a Ravigneaux compound planetary gearset, load is distributed across a broad surface area for smoothness and less wear. It also has the benefits of two gearsets in one, which offers some weight reduction and engineering simplicity (with fewer parts).

    The AOD’s internals: main...

    The AOD’s internals: main input shaft, reverse clutch drum (overdrive band), forward clutch, and direct clutch cylinder. This is how they go together and fit into the transmission case.

    The AOD’s cast-iron and steel...

    The AOD’s cast-iron and steel gear pump provides hydraulic control pressure and lubrication. Included with the front pump is the intermediate clutch piston, which holds the forwardmost clutch pack in the case immediately behind the pump.

    The C3, C4, C6, and FMX transmissions have vacuum modulators to control shift-points, depending upon throttle position and manifold vacuum. They also have a throttle-controlled kickdown linkage, which works with the vacuum modulator to control shift-points mostly for wide-open throttle (WOT) downshift. The vacuum modulator finitely controls line pressure. The kickdown delivers maximum line pressure at WOT. The AOD eliminates the vacuum modulator by relying strictly on throttle position via the TV cable to control shift-points. Proper adjustment of the TV cable is crucial. Improper adjustment can lead to transmission failure, which means it must be performed strictly by the book to prevent slippage and clutch/band failure.

    The AOD’s front pump case casting number...

    The AOD’s front pump case casting number tells you which front pump you have. Although there were virtually no engineering changes to this pump during its production life, there are variations in this casting number, depending upon when it was cast.

    Here, you can see the difference between a...

    Here, you can see the difference between a standard AOD reverse drum (right) and the 1993-up Lincoln AODE/4R70W reverse/overdrive drum (left). The wider Lincoln reverse drum and overdrive band hold better due to increased surface/friction area. The wider reverse drum/overdrive band is what you want for any AOD build because of its greater holding power and reduced chance of failure. Never use the wider band without using the wider drum.

    The AOD’s valve body didn’t change...

    The AOD’s valve body didn’t change much throughout its production life. What makes it different from the AODE/4R70W valve body is its throttle valve function rather than computer control.

    The AOD is equipped with two friction bands and clutch drums: one low-reverse band and clutch drum and one band and clutch pack for overdrive. There are also two one-way clutches, and four friction clutches. The geartrain consists of a Ravigneaux compound planetary gear package also used in the FMX, MX, and FX transmissions employing two sun gears and a dual pinion set that provides four forward gears and one reverse. This makes the AOD a tough competitor in the complicated world of automatic overdrive transmissions.

    Look for the Ford casting number on main...

    Look for the Ford casting number on main cases and valve bodies for an indication of when the part was produced. This is a 1980 AOD RF-E0AP-7A092-AF valve body.

    Here’s an RF-E9DP-7006-AA...

    Here’s an RF-E9DP-7006-AA AOD main case, an engineering revision time frame of 1989. RF is believed to mean Rouge Foundry (Dearborn, Michigan).

    This is the multi-pin backup light/neutral...

    This is the multi-pin backup light/neutral safety switch for AOD only. It is a linear switch operated by a cam on the manual shift linkage inside the case. It prohibits starting in any drive gear range and illuminates the backup lights while in reverse.

    The AOD is an old-school automatic with hydromechanical...

    The AOD is an old-school automatic with hydromechanical function and a conventional tailshaft flyweight valve governor that affects upshifts and downshifts based on vehicle speed. It has a direct effect on control pressure and shift-points. This governor is calibrated to vehicle weight and size, which means there are variations that you need to be aware of, especially if you’ve purchased an AOD core of unknown origin.

    This AOD tailshaft housing with RF-E0AP-7A040-BD...

    This AOD tailshaft housing with RF-E0AP-7A040-BD indicates a 1980 original casting from Rouge Foundry. The E0AP part of the casting number doesn’t always mean it was cast in 1980; it means there were no engineering changes since 1980. The number 25 here is the cavity number, which indicates which sand-cast mold the piece was cast from. In other words, a bunch of identical sand-casting cavities were used on cast-iron or aluminum parts in mass production. Cavity numbers help the foundry find any casting issues. On main AOD cases, you find the cavity number on the bellhousing.

    On the backup light/neutral safety switch...

    On the backup light/neutral safety switch, the copper pin rides a manual shift linkage cam that moves the pin in linear fashion to open the start circuit or fire the backup lights. This switch is available from Late Model Restorations (PN SW2276). The harness and multi-pin plug is available from Ron Francis Wiring (PN PG-057).

    This disassembled AOD governor demonstrates function...

    This disassembled AOD governor demonstrates function. From left is the (A) plug, (B) sleeve, (C) spring and retainer clip, (D) valve piston, (E) screen, and (F) main governor body with cover plate. The counterweight is not shown, but it houses the valve assembly and counterweights the complete assembly. The governor valve piston is spring loaded and operates against both spring load and centrifugal force. As the output shaft spins faster with vehicle speed, the valve piston overcomes spring pressure and line pressure goes to work. This affects shift-points as well as throttle valve movement. It also affects both upshift and downshift points. Use a stiffer spring and you get a higher shift-point. Calibration is based on spring pressure.

    Because most AOD transmissions have the six-bolt bellhousing design first introduced for 1965, they fit behind any small-block V-8 or large 240- or 300-ci 6-cylinder engine. Smaller five-bolt bellhousing V-8s prior to 1965 do not bolt to the AOD. However, there are aftermarket adaptor kits that allow you to bolt the AOD, AODE, and 4R70W to big-block Ford V-8s. This means the AOD has become one of the most trusted automatics in history.

    The AOD has a filter retained with three fine-thread...

    The AOD has a filter retained with three fine-thread bolts and a 10-mm socket. The filter should never be cleaned and returned to service. Always replace it during a fluid change.

    Here is the AOD main case with the servo/accumulator...

    Here is the AOD main case with the servo/accumulator covers and pistons removed. Ultimately, Ford eliminated the accumulator in production, which is why some AOD cores are not so equipped. The 3-4 shift accumulator was phased out in the 1989 model year due to leak issues. The valve body is also different to accommodate this production change; it employs a revised separator plate. If your AOD doesn’t have a 3-4 shift accumulator, don’t worry about installing one.

    This is the AOD manual shift mechanism...

    This is the AOD manual shift mechanism (left) and throttle valve linkage (right) with the valve body removed. The manual valve detent is a hollow shaft with the throttle valve shaft inside. Both have seals that should be replaced during a rebuild. This application has a Lokar aftermarket external linkage for column shift.

    With the AOD valve body removed, two servo...

    With the AOD valve body removed, two servo pistons and an accumulator are visible. From left to right are the overdrive band servo, low-reverse servo, and the 3-4 shift accumulator. The 3-4 shift accumulator was dropped in 1989 with the addition of a revised valve body and plate. If you use a 1980–1988 AOD valve body, you must have the 3-4 shift accumulator.

    The easiest way to identify the AOD is the Automatic Overdrive Metric wording along with the Ford Blue Oval stamped into its 14-bolt galvanized steel pan. The AOD, like the C6, is a one-piece casting that includes bellhousing and main

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